So how did a company whose history centers on the genius of its founder and his revolver designs of the 19th century end up affiliated with a rifle that was so radical at the time of its introduction in the mid-1960s? Well, the connection is part of the interesting relationship through the years between Colt and the M16. In fact, Colt has been there for almost every major milestone of the M16 family’s development.
Going back to the years before the US military’s adoption of the M16, the design was originally developed by Eugene Stoner as the Armalite AR series. In fact, Stoner’s initial offering was the AR-10, developed in the mid-1950s and chambered in 7.62x51mm (.308). The radically advanced design combined modern materials such as plastics and aluminum, and employed a novel direct gas-impingement system of operation where the gas is directed through a hollow tube to impact directly against the bolt carrier. Although the AR-10 was quite impressive in its own rights, the US military’s growing interest in a small-caliber, high-velocity cartridge caused Armalite’s engineers to set about scaling down and adapting the AR-10’s design to the cartridge that would ultimately become the 5.56x45mm (.223). The result was the AR-15 rifle.